How to Get Lost in Sonoma

There are few invitations to adventure more alluring than a diamond-shaped orange road-sign inscribed in sans-serif font. For us workaday chaps, for whom the morning commute represents the pinnacle of one’s quotidian exposure to danger and intrigue, it hardly matters what’s written on the sign. Of course, “Falling Rocks,” has a little more implicit danger than “Soft shoulder,” though the latter certainly compensates with its flicker of intrigue. By far the most interesting signs are the ones that read “Detour,” since they interrupt our well-established patterns and force us to act – albeit, often by merely turning left – but who knows what lays beyond? I certainly didn’t.

Since the real estate market exiled me in the Springs, I’ve forgotten the “nuisance of nuance” that is Sonoma’s road plan – or as often – it’s seeming lack of it. I no longer distinguish between East and West; my mental map of Sonoma simply consists of “here” and “there.” And “there” can be a relative labyrinth when you throw in a detour sign or two.

One would think that a guy named Daedalus would have a handle on labyrinths, seeing as the name comes from the mythological Greek character said to have invented the notion (in his case, to contain the Minotaur and sundry other mythic miscreants). Not I, at least not when it came to navigating the detour set up on Fifth Street West this week. This is in no way a criticism of the fine people who performed the open-heart surgery on the artery between Fifth Street West and West Spain last week, in particular, the stretch of street, bisected by the bike path. Of the two main arteries to-and-from the Springs, this is my preferred route, not least of which because its rectilinear pathway usually adheres to a predictable grid (the sweeping arc of Hwy. 12 that splinters into Riverside Drive has always made me nervous, in part because of the sign on the landscaped island dividing the road which reads “Xeriscape,” a word which looks like space-alien lingo for “We’re buried here”).

When either Fifth Street West or any length of Highway 12 is closed for more than a couple of minutes, chaos ensues. Unless, of course, there’s a “Detour” sign – though in my case, it should be footnoted with the disclaimer, “Hope you packed a lunch because you will be driving in circles for the next half-an-hour.”

It’s my own fault. I drive like a lemming, I merely followed the car in front of me, which in turn was following the car in front of it, which was apparently driven by a blind person. This is too bad because there are many sights worth seeing when traveling down Lasuen Drive, where our detour began. For example, I’d never seen Grace Baptist Church Fellowship Hall before and its signage regarding the “New Wine Fellowship.” I’m assuming they don’t have a tasting room but can testify that I’ve “seen the light” refracted through a wine glass on a few occasions and am happy to know they’re there.

Our lost caravan didn’t stop at Grace, or our other geographic discovery, Olsen Park. We sallied forth, the blind leading the blind, up Joaquin Drive, where I spied another band of detoured motorists circling Sherman Court, unaware that they were following their own tail, so to speak. As we watched them turning in this existential gyre, our collective instinct to help redirect them was waylaid by the mutual assessment that they’d just slow-up our own escape. So, we left them to perish.

Ay, if only we had shown some compassion. Our karma was served up soon enough when we found ourselves trapped in the cul de sac that caps Mitchell Way, unable to re-enter the stream of cars heading toward freedom. The other drivers had likely witnessed our callous forsaking of the Sherman Court Convoy (may they rest in peace) and proceeded to block we Mitchell Way Wanderers from entering the flow of traffic.

It is from there that I write you now, dear readers. Please, for the love of God, show some mercy. Or at least, the way to Linda Drive.

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